Global energy consumption continues to grow, with our power-hungry world expected to demand 30% more energy by 2040. At the forefront of that energised modern world is electricity – predicted to account for fully 40% of that growth.
Yet even as our thirst for electricity grows, the way in which we consume it is transforming the energy ecosystem. The increasing electrification of things with innovations such as electric vehicles, alongside growing decentralisation of production using off-grid and micro-grid renewable energy technologies, are shaking up the way our industry operates.
In this rapidly evolving landscape, traditional power producers are moving quickly to embrace innovation and add their own important piece to this emerging new ecosystem. Here are three exciting examples of pioneers who are trailblazing that innovation.
TEPCO – Exploring Drone Highways in Japan
Innovation is exploring the skies in Japan, with an exciting collaboration between national energy producer TEPCO and mapping company Zenrin.
These two companies are working together to investigate the intriguing possibilities of drone highways supported through partnership in key areas of each company’s expertise. Combining TEPCO’s established electricity distribution networks and infrastructure ‘highways’, alongside digital mapping innovation from Zenrin, the two are looking to create an exciting opportunity for disruptive innovation.
By leveraging the extensive infrastructure that forms the skeleton of their electricity distribution network, TEPCO are hoping to become a leader in addressing one of the emerging challenges for Industry 4.0. With the drone market in Japan expected to grow from US$172.54 million in 2016 to US$986.73 million by 2020, what part of the sky should increasingly important commercial drones traverse, and how do we keep them powered and flying?
Not only does TEPCO’s network provide a drone highway for navigation, their industry expertise enables them to explore key recharging points and drone support infrastructure along the length of this network.
KEPCO – Energising Blockchain in South Korea
Blockchain has seen growing recognition around its potential within energy markets in recent years. and so it’s perhaps no surprise to see tech-driven South Korea testing this framework in a new and exciting way.
The potential for blockchain in energy is tremendous, and it’s that opportunity that national power provider KEPCO is aiming to unlock. The company has plans to conduct pilot testing of an unique blockchain service in two apartments in Seoul, as well as at its own facilities. This trial will look to integrate solar energy generation to create a distributed power market, allowing neighbourhood electricity trading alongside electric vehicle charging.
The ultimate goal of this pilot is to provide communities access to cheaper electricity while allowing renewable energy producers to sell their excess energy through peer-supported networks. That means those consumers who also produce electricity, or ‘prosumers’, benefit from their efforts to more sustainable electricity supplies. This is an exciting new frontier for distributed power, potentially unlocking an opportunity for safe, secure and widely beneficial trading of excess power produced by independent prosumers.
Enel – Kicking off Innovation with a Global Innovation World Cup
Enel is a multinational energy giant primarily based in Europe and Latin America, and one of the biggest power producers in Europe. The international scope of its operations provides the business an opportunity for a wide network of exciting disruptive innovation. But embracing disruption over such a distributed company requires empowering the workforce. That’s exactly what Enel sought to do with their ‘Innovation World Cup’.
This fantastic initiative saw Enel host an internal innovation competition held throughout their international business, aiming to promote innovative ideas from staff as well as supporting experience in management roles through ‘corporate entrepreneurship’.
Winning entries included portable battery technology, mobile mapping of distribution networks and more. A particularly innovative entry that stands out emerged from Italy, where a crowd-funding platform designed to support adoption of solar panels allows citizens to support each other on the journey to a more sustainable lifestyle.